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The solution to Seattle’s bikeshare problem could be down in Portland

Improperly parked bikeshares have become a prevalent issue in Seattle. (SDOT)

Over the last year, Seattle has struggled with poorly parked bikeshares across the city, but former Washington State Secretary of Transportation Doug McDonald sees a potential fix in how Portland has tackled the issue.

In a recent audit of Lime and Jump, the Seattle Department of Transportation found 1.6 percent of bikes blocking pedestrian pathways, 17.4 percent presenting “obstruction hazards,”and 32.5 percent parked incorrectly. That had SDOT reducing the maximum fleet size for both companies.

Despite those penalties and investments to build corrals for parking, riders themselves haven’t been incentivized to change their behavior.

SDOT cuts fleets for bikeshares again after more poorly parked bikes

“Walk around and look at these new bike corrals — they’re all over the city, and they’re all empty,” McDonald pointed out. “You walk down the block and there’s a bike leaning up against the wall of a building where it’s not supposed to be, because people don’t have reason to walk across the sidewalk and put the their bike in the bike rack.”

In Portland, things are a little different, where the city issues citations to poorly parked bikes. Bikeshare companies will then charge that to the person who last used the bike, providing a motivation to park it correctly in the future.

McDonald sees an opportunity for instant improvement if Seattle were to ever adopt a similar strategy.

“Now, if you did that [in Seattle] … it would take about 20 minutes for Reddit to pass on the word that you had better not park your bike in the wrong place,” he opined. “The word would get around in about a day, and that would help solve the problem.”

In the meantime, bikes continue to block streets and sidewalks.

Mike O’Brien wants to hold SDOT accountable for bike lane network

McDonald sees a solution in ticketing the riders themselves, that would help get bikes into racks, and off of walkways.

“You let the bikeshare company do the work, and then the bike corrals would be great. But if they’re just sitting around empty, it’s kind of a mockery of the program.”

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